Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater, don’t

Meaning Of Idioms ‘Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater’

To throw out the baby with the bathwater means to discard something useful, essential, or important because you want to get rid of something undesired or negative; to lose valuable ideas or aspects because you want to get rid of certain things you don’t want.


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Usage

This idiom is most often used with the word ‘don’t’ as in don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. However it is used, it is always negative. It is never a good thing to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Examples Of Use

“You don’t need a new fitness routine just because you don’t like one exercise. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

“Why do you want to vote down the entire bill just because you don’t like one minor item on it? You’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

“We aren’t going to remove all of our kitchen cabinets when all they need are new doors. That would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

Origin

The English idiom ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’ began as a German proverb from the 1500s. It didn’t appear in English until the mid-1800s.

There is a fanciful bit of folk etymology often cited as its origin which claims that, in the old days, everyone used the same bathwater.

The man of the house would bathe first, then all the other males, then women and children, and finally the baby.

By the time the baby was bathed, the water was so dirty you could easily lose the baby in it. Thus, one might accidentally throw out the baby with the bathwater!

As convincing as this may sound, it’s pure fantasy and there is no evidence that any real danger or actual events led to this idiom.

It simply calls on the image of a baby accidentally being tossed out along with the dirty bathwater, which is a powerful enough one and lends some transparency to the idiom. After all, one should not throw out the baby just to get rid of the bathwater!

 

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